Hello boys and girls. Right, let’s get these out the way first: oh, yes it is. Oh, no it isn’t. Has anyone seen a princess around here? You used to say live and let live, you know you did, you know you did, you know you did. Wait, what? No, that’s not a typo from a particularly ardent Wings fan, the pantomime at the Durham Gala Theatre genuinely does feature a rendition of the classic Bond theme Live and Let Die, performed by the hilarious pantomime villain Fleshcreep (Neil Armstrong) as an opening to the second half.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This is a great panto – silly, funny, stereotypical and featuring numerous local references to add a few more laughs for the grown-ups. It’s everything you’d want for a festive night out with the family. Set in Spennymoor, the show opens in traditional panto style with a big musical number: Hooray for Spennymoor set to the tune of Guys and Dolls. You’ll be singing it all the way home.
Following this, we’re introduced to a variety of pantomime characters including Silly Simon (Paul Hartley), his mother Dame Trott (Paul Dunn) and Princess Jilliana (Sarah Boulter). Of course, there’s also the show’s title character, played well by Jamie Brown, and an excellent supporting cast.
The plot of the show is a little different to the story you might know – Fleshcreep has stolen The Awesome Amulet of Auckland from the Fairy Moonflower (Sally Collett) and is using its power to control Olaf the Giant (Ethan Scott) and wreak havoc upon the poor people of Spennymoor. Once he kidnaps Princess Jilliana who has recently met and fallen in love with Jack, and cons Silly Simon into swapping the family cow Milkshake (John Murdoch) for some beans (not even in a tin), it’s only a matter of time before Jack, Fairy Moonflower and the rest of the gang are shimmying up the beanstalk to put a stop to the wicked wizard.
The numerous references to local places get a good amount of laughs, as does the frequent audience interaction (the poor bloke in the front row was a great sport about being picked out as Dame Trott’s love interest and subsequently squirted with water). The stand out performance, however, comes from Neil Armstrong playing Fleshcreep with excellent comic timing and a number of little asides to the audience. We particularly enjoyed his lonely hearts entry that states he’s interested in a female companion to join him in evil deeds – must be into progressive rock.
This pantomime is everything you would want for a fun night out that the whole family can enjoy – there are enough jokes about bums to keep the kids amused, while mums and dads will enjoy the little local jokes and references. Get yourself some tickets and join in. You won’t regret it, oh, no, you won’t.